This week I got a 100-word email after my sermon that had an 8-word line in it I’d like to memorize. Our sermon topic was Awkward Church, which got this individual thinking. I hope you like his email as much as I did.
When I was about 11, we stayed with my grandparents for about a month when we were between homes. My father liked a glass of bourbon before dinner. Although he never drank himself, my grandfather kept a bottle of bourbon in a cabinet in his living room and invited my dad to have a drink each evening.
A couple of years later, I asked my grandfather why he did this, believing as he did in abstinence from alcohol. His answer was short and concise: “Abstinence is a choice, hospitality is a commandment.”
It’s important for us to make sure we don’t treat our preferences like commandments.
What is your dream church? What kind of music, kids program, messages do you most like?
If we found our dream church, would it be good for us–or would it limit us?
I know what my dad would have liked. His dream would have been the Blackwood Brothers leading hymns, George Beverly Shea singing the special music, and fire-and-brimstone Billy Sunday doing the message.
I’m still more of a DC Talk, Josh Garrels, and Tony Evans kind of guy.
But, is getting what we want best for any of us? Does God divide Heaven up into contemporary and traditional services, Gregorian chants and hip hop? Will the Anglicans have a different service than the Baptists, or are all of us going to have to learn when to stand, sit, and repeat?
Let’s admit it. We are all somewhat selfish consumers when we choose a church. Maybe it is because of my job, but every time I attend another church, I can’t help but evaluate it. I end up asking myself deep theological questions like…
Do they have close visitors parking? Surely if they cared about the unsaved and lazy visitors like me, they would provide guest parking.
Is it going to be good coffee; or church coffee?
After sitting down, I look at the stage. That way I know if I need hearing aids, earplugs, or if it gets my eternal approval and hitting that perfect balance between the two.
Please no “greet the visitor” time. I’m shy already. Let me hide.
After the service, what are they giving away? Coffee doesn’t count. I want a hat, a mug, a new iPad might even bring me back next week.
OK, I’m not that bad. But this week, as I look at what Scripture says about church, I have started to wonder…
Was growing up in a church not my style more healthy for me than if it had been one of my making? This study made me glad our church combined with Wellspring Anglican on Good Friday. It was awkward, I never knew if I was suppose to be sitting or standing, but a picture of Heaven nonetheless.
Here’s my thesis: I believe God made church awkward on purpose – so that we would mature.
Now that I think of it, Dad is in his dream church now. I wonder if learning when to stand and sit in Heaven was awkward.
Thanks to so many who supported our trip to Haiti this year. I went early with a few, and here are 3 things that pretty much could only happen there…
1: Up to my armpits.
We had a couple of toilets we couldn’t get to flush correctly. One was the toilet the 96 too-young-to-aim preschoolers used. We really wanted that one working. The other was in the guys room where we stored the plunger for constant use even when the toilet works well. Anyhow, after removing one toilet with my coworker Jeff, a massive centipede came climbing up the pipe. It was amazing, as the pipe went straight down over 2 feet. I suppose the poop on the sides of the plastic gave him grip. The other one just had those 2” roaches flying out of it.
Anyhow, we killed it when it reached the top, and that’s when I dropped the drill end tool I was using. The one I needed. The irreplaceable tool I needed, I dropped down the toilet hole of death. I didn’t want to think about what I needed to do – too much thinking leads to wisdom, otherwise called wimping out. So, I dove my hand down in there, felt around, grabbed it and yanked it out as fast as possible.
Had something, anything, crawled onto my hand, there would have been another brown spot on the floor.
2: Trash That Wasn’t
After replacing the two unfixable toilets, the trash people came. This isn’t like trash pickup here, it’s a couple guys in a flat bed truck that you pay to come. There is no trash pickup, people end up burning or burying it if they have a house, or just dropping it where they are if not. You have to pay someone to pick up your trash, and few have the money for that. It’s not safe to go to the dump without being somehow connected to the gang there. Anyhow the trash guys asked about the toilets, we said to take them. Suddenly two women working at our house said they wanted them.
We said OK.
We also had a busted suitcase when we arrived – one of the wheels and corners was totally missing. This wasn’t a big deal, we pick them up at garage sales for 5 bucks, and trash them when they get broken due to the harsh treatment. I had put that one in the trash pile the day before. Later I walked behind a building and saw another female worker washing it off with a hose and rag. It looked spotless.
My trashing it was a mistake.
The woman with the suitcase was taking it home to store things out of the dirt. It would become her dresser. I don’t know what will happen to the toilets, almost no one has running water. But, the problem was, I let people take stuff without asking the missionaries that run the place, Byron and Shelley, first. They know who got something last, who is in the greatest need, who would most benefit. When the first to speak up get something, the others can become bitter. Ignorance can cause issues.
After 12 trips, I’m still ignorant. And how humbling to see folks fighting over our trash. It’s confusing, the inequity of it all.
3: Haitian Realities and God’s Sovereignty
Fritz Boyle, who is an intern with Maranatha Ministries again this summer, wrote this last story for the Maranatha Newsletter. It is the reason we go – so that things like this have the opportunity to happen through the real missionaries on sight. I thought she could tell it better than me.
A few weeks ago, Maranatha became involved with distributing food for another orphanage in Port-au-Prince. The full story of why we became involved is wholly corrupt. Funds were being stolen, food and supplies were being mismanaged, children were starving to death. Once what was happening became evident to us, we involved our staff in buying and preparing food to feed these children.
A couple weeks after we became involved with food distribution at this orphanage, my parents came to visit. Shelley suggested (almost on a whim) that we all go on a field trip to the orphanage, so that my Dad (who is an ER doctor) could give the kids a medical examination and so that we could tell the kids the Easter story and how much Jesus loves them.
During the medical examinations, my Dad discovered that one of the younger boys in the orphanage had congestive heart failure and vocal cord paralysis. If these symptoms were due to malnutrition, then the condition of the boy was fatal; if we didn’t address it within a few weeks, he would die. His problem had to do with a severe deficiency in vitamin B1.
Vitamin B1 can be taken orally or in a liquid shot. The boy’s deficiency was so severe that in order for him to survive, he needed a concentrated shot of vitamin B1 as soon as possible. At that point, if he had taken it orally, his body wouldn’t be able to absorb it and he still would have died.
And, here’s the thing. A concentrated vitamin B1 shot might not be an easy thing to find in Haiti. It’s just not as common to take it in a liquid form. And never in a thousand years would my parents have just randomly packed liquid vitamin B1 for their beach vacation with their daughters, EXCEPT THAT, Shelley and I have been wanting to take vitamin B12 shots (which are supposed to give you more energy if you’re exhausted all of the time) since October. You don’t mix the vitamin B1 with the other liquid vitamin until you’re ready to take the shot (for reasons that I am unaware of.) Normally, you can buy these shots in a dual chambered syringe that will mix the chemicals right before injection. Dad found it cheaper to buy bottles of the concentrated vitamins separately, though, and had intended to put together a whole bunch of shots once he landed in Haiti for Shelley and I. HOWEVER, by the glorious grace of God, even though the second vitamin had been packed tightly in a small box with bubble wrap so it wouldn’t break, it shattered on the way here. Dad was unable to mix the concentrated vitamin B1 with the other vitamins to make our shots.
He was able to inject this young boy with the concentrated vitamin B1 his body so desperately needed the very day after we discovered the deficiency, and we had enough to last us until my sister left to visit her friend in Florida and was able to bring us back more.
But that’s just half of it. The symptoms of a vitamin B1 deficiency don’t present themselves in malnourished people until after they’ve been eating for a few weeks. Following WWII, they found that many holocaust survivors died after being rescued, even though they had started eating, because they had undiagnosed vitamin B1 deficiencies. A team of nurse practitioners spent two days trying to sort out the health issues with these children at the time that the plight of these starving kids was brought to our attention. They had examined every single one of those kids and didn’t notice any congestive heart failure or vocal cord paralysis.
What I’m saying is that if my parents had come a few weeks earlier, the vitamin B1 deficiency would have gone undetected. And if they had come a few weeks later, the kid would already be dead. God in His perfect, glorious, good will, brought these children’s condition to Shelley and Byron’s attention so they could start feeding them a few weeks before my parents visited, shattered the glass containing our other liquid vitamin on the way here, and then brought us on a spontaneous trip to the orphanage to save a life.
Coincidences aren’t really coincidences. A volunteer/supporter of this orphanage has been faithfully praying for this orphanage and these children every single night with her kids. I am confident that her prayers and our God saved that boy’s life. I have no words except that our God is a God of grace and miracles. I was not involved in saving this boy’s life, but I was humbled and filled with joy to witness the work of our God.
We continue to need direction and miracles for that orphanage. Pray with confidence of the sovereignty and goodness of our God.
Thanks for your support of us going for another year!